image courtesy of Fontbonne Campus Ministries

Metanoia: (from the Greek, μετανοεῖτε, literally μετά, or meta—with, after, or beyond, and νοέω, also noeó, or noia—think, consider, realize): to think or consider beyond what you may already know;
to think differently.

Metanoia is the same word poorly translated in most English language bibles as “repent”, as in—

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” ~ Matthew 3:1-2, NIV, emphasis added

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” ~ Matthew 4:17, emphasis added

Metanoia is a very interesting word to me. For years I’ve always considered the Biblical word “repent” to mean “a change of direction”, and though I don’t necessarily think this definition is wrong, I’m beginning to wonder if it might be inadequate, or at the very least, incomplete.

John the Baptist and Jesus were pleading with people, with farmers and shepherds, with merchants and religious leaders, to reconsider their thinking, their understanding of the role of the Messiah, and what, and where, the kingdom of heaven actually was. Try this:

Consider beyond what you may know, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Think differently, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

To me, it sounds very similar to Jesus on the mount, You have heard it said…but I say…

I’ve especially begun to consider this word more clearly as I think about how people—those both inside and outside of the Christian faith—choose to define themselves. It’s really easy for us, especially easy given the pervasiveness of social media, to define, to judge, or to have a less-than-favorable opinion or conclusion, regarding the lives and actions of those around us, or around the world. But it becomes much more difficult to focus that same lens inwardly.

I think, for the most part, we tend to have a view of ourselves either too casual and aloof (“I may be ____, but at least I’m not _____”), or too harsh and judgmental (“I”m a worm. I’m worm food. The stuff that worms eat and poop out…that’s me.”). Yet, on a personal level, I’ve been convinced (read, convicted) lately to μετανοεῖτε—to repent—of how I see myself, and even more importantly how God sees me, as much if not more so than how I choose to live my life, or how I deal with (or avoid) my imperfect past.

At the moment, and likely for a long time to come, I’m not  anywhere near the point of speaking into anyone else’s issues (which involves a certain level of intentional relationship anyway, but I digress). It turns out that my own issues are quite enough for me at the moment, thank you very much.

I’m coming to believe that if I could only get out of my own head and begin to see myself as God sees me, maybe then the way I choose to live my life, and the way I tend to view my past indiscretions—as well as my desire to μετανοεῖτε of those things—may be filled with a little more thankfulness and expectation rather than filled with fear, disappointment, and shame.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Cor. 5:17
You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13a, 14a
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Just a short, random thought today. Thought I’d share.


2 thoughts on “Metanoia”

  1. I can really relate to: “if I could only get out of my own head and begin to see myself as God sees me.” I remember one day going to church and not feeling very good about myself. This was years ago and I can’t even remember what I had done that was weighing on me, but I felt unworthy. I was the director for the music and as I led the opening hymn, I was filled with joy and light. I knew I was ok with God. It was such a dramatic change from the heaviness I had labored under only minutes before. It was a clear witness to me of God’s love, mercy and forgiving nature. I know that repentance is a true principle and I try to be aware of things I need to change, and I ask for God’s forgiveness when I know I have sinned. However, if we are feeling like we are “worm poop” (thanks for making me chuckle), that thought, that feeling, is probably coming from a source that is NOT God. I think it takes time and practice to discern between our own voice in our heads and the voice of God. I’m still working hard on that one.

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